Wichita police detail progress in dealing with mentally ill

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita Police Department says it is making progress on steps to improve relations with the community based on recommendations stemming from the organizational assessment conducted by Wichita State University.

Chief Gordon Ramsay on Thursday pointed to several accomplishments, including body cameras on all officers on patrol, posting news briefings and other events on Facebook, putting safety videos on YouTube and having a Hispanic liaison officer.

Another area of concern has been police handling of cases involving the mentally ill.

Chief Gordon Ramsay has said from his start here in Wichita that it was a priority to work to improve the relationship between the department and those with mental illness. On Thursday, he said part of that process includes a new partnership with NAMI, the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

He also announced several other steps the department has taken to help prepare police for their interactions with people who may be dealing with mental health issues.

Over the past year and half, police have been receiving training in mental health first aid. There are now 520 officers that have successfully completed the class. 110 officers are scheduled to attend the training before the end of the year, resulting in 100% of officers trained.

The department has also decided to train all employees, including those who aren’t officers, to help raise awareness and preparedness if they come in contact with citizens in a crisis situation.

“Our officers are dealing more and more with it on a daily basis,” said Chief Ramsay. “So we want to ensure that they are trained to de-escalate, understand what issues may be going through individual’s minds and ensuring that we are very judicious in how we address these and use force as a last resort.”

In addition, the Wichita Police Department is also partnering with Sedgwick County Crisis Council and COMCARE to provide crisis intervention training to all officers. Currently, 114 officers are certified in crisis intervention.

Ramsay says it’s just one part of an attempt to help the WPD understand the community.

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